Benito’s Hat

After my exciting New York adventure (which I blogged about, very briefly, for Cosmo, here) I lasted four days before getting an itch which is now as familiar to me as Marilyn’s seven-year one.

I needed a burrito. A warm and glinting foil package, as plump and heavy as a soft-folded lover, gently urging me to peel off a crisp strip of silver, press my lips to the yielding, fleshy dough and fill my mouth with a steaming chunk of deliciousness, as welcoming as a homecoming queen.

Unngggg.

Sadly, I decided to go to Benito’s Hat.

For those of you gasping in horror, don’t worry: I intend to go back. I’ve had so many people telling me that it’s great, that I can’t possibly have not enjoyed it, that saying it wasn’t THE MOST AMAZING THING I HAVE PUT IN MY MOUTH, LIKE, EVER is like slagging off their mums, I’m going to give it another go. And those people include @MarinaMetro, @BurritoClub, @MrMcbear and @aclarke_cooking. You just don’t mess with that kind of recommendation.

But for now, all I have to go on is the disappointment of my visit to the branch on Great Castle Street. For the record, I have been to Benito’s Hat before, and I know I enjoyed it. But that was back in the days when a burrito was just some meat and stuff in a bit of bread. Oh, heady, innocent days.

I skipped there happily, excited about having a burrito after five days in the burrito wilderness. I ordered the usual – chicken, black beans, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and medium salsa – as there weren’t any tempting extra options. Even the rice was just…rice. Where’s my lime and coriander? Hmm?

I was given my burrito on a little red tray with a handful of suspiciously yellow tortilla chips on the side. I don’t like tortilla chips, and they probably added 50p to the £6.10 price of my meal just so I could stare at their golden triangularity with hatred in my eyes while I ate.

Bearing in mind that this was the first burrito I’d eaten since I’d been to Chipotle – where their tasty fare is the size and weight of a small wildebeest – I was disproportionately horrified at the tiny amounts of rice and beans and chicken which were ladled onto my 12” wrap. And when I didn’t ask for lettuce, they just bunged in a bit more rice to make it slightly less puny.

The service was friendly, but I didn’t have high hopes for my burrito. And sure enough, it was a bit drab and flavourless and ‘meh’. It tasted mainly of rice which didn’t taste of anything. I don’t have a picture of it, as it was consumed in the days when a burrito was dinner, not a mission. But it was mainly white, browny-cream and creamy-white. And by way of compensation, here’s a photo of the outside – I even did pixellating!

Benito's Hat, and a pixellated man

As I said earlier, Benito’s Hat is well loved, especially the Goodge St branch, so I’ll be giving it a second chance. Watch this space. (Not literally. It could be ages).

Mood before: Over-expectant

Mood after: Disappointed, yet contemplative

Ratings: Food: 5/10, Ambience: 7/10, Staff: 7/10, Value: 5/10

Where: 56 Goodge St, Fitzrovia; 19 New Row, Covent Garden; 12 Great Castle Street, Oxford Circus. Open 7 days a week.

Closest tube: Goodge St, Covent Garden, Oxford Circus

Web: Find them here / @BenitosChat

Recommended?: Not yet, but give it time

UPDATE

Benito’s Hat: The Return

After the above review went up, uproar ensured. Everyone bloody loves Benito’s Hat, as if it were their very own, favourite hat, or Prince’s Raspberry Beret or something. Having got wind of my review, @BenitosChat had even got involved (I hadn’t posted the review directly to them. That would be mean), Tweeting me, ‘Sorry @Mullies. I’m really keen for you to give us another shot as we’re very proud of what we do.’ I felt terrible. I’d been mean to their baby robot. That, along with everyone glaring at me malevolently from Twitter, made me venture back.

I’d just been to the opening night of Poncho No 8, and the tantalising taste of mini burrito I’d got there had made me want more. ‘Now might be a good time to visit Benito’s Hat,’ I thought, heading for the Goodge Street branch which seems to be everyone’s favourite.

Sadly – and I really am very sorry about this – it seems there’s never a good time to go to Benito’s Hat. Despite there being only two of us in the queue, the server tried to make two burritos at once, at lightening speed, their hands a blur – fine during a busy lunchtime, but not necessary on a quiet evening. That kind of speed makes me panic.

The burrito itself was incredibly dry, and tasted really weird. I think either the sour cream or the cheese were a bit off, because it had that same feety taste to it that dairy takes on when you’re a student and cut the mould off cheddar. I couldn’t taste the chilli sauce at all – not even the tiniest tang – which was disappointing. I gave up halfway through, unable to carry on.

I wanted to love you. I really did

To be fair, although he agreed it was dry, my date couldn’t taste the offness, and he also argued that his burrito, which included lettuce and guacamole, was fine, although not spectactular. He reasoned that you should have the full monty when you go for a burrito otherwise it’s not fair – the burrista (from now on a REAL WORD) can’t demonstrate his or her powers of burrito-ness properly, like Heston Blumenthal being denied a vaccuum cleaner and dry ice.

Plus, he said, it’s only my opinion. I argued back: shut up stinky, I’ve had some really nice burritos so far, so that’s no excuse. And my opinion is awesome, so shush. He totally got served, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I’m very sorry my relationship with Benito’s Hat didn’t work out. I won’t be going back there, but I hope we can be friends.

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